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Using bubbles for language development

They’re shiny and shimmery; they can be huge or tiny. Sometimes they float up and sometimes down. They pop unexpectedly, perhaps in your face or maybe not until they’ve bounced a few times on the floor. But why are bubbles so fantastic for language development?

  • Bubbles can be difficult for young children to blow so they present the perfect opportunity for language modelling and learning. Blow bubbles with your child for a little while then stop and WAIT. You could wait while holding the bubble wand before blowing the next bubble. You might reach for a high up bubble but wait before popping it, looking at your child to see how they urge you to go ahead and squash that bubble. Wait several seconds, look at your child expectantly, eyebrows raised, ready for them to chime in. If they don’t, that’s ok, just keep going with the bubbles and talking about what’s happening but continue to wait and provide these opportunities for talking. If your child does say something, reinforce this with lots of smiles and repeating back what they said with a little bit more information (e.g. they say “More”, you say “More? More bubbles? OK, let’s blow more bubbles!”).
  • For children who can blow the bubbles themselves or are learning to, bubbles can be a nice way to practise turn taking –  both the actual skill of waiting for your turn AND the language associated with it (“my turn, your turn, who’s turn?, wait”).
  • “p”, “b” and “m” sounds are some of the earliest developing and easiest sounds for young children to make. Blowing bubbles gives your child plenty of opportunity to practise talking using these easier sounds, e.g. “bubbles”, “blow”, “pop”, “more?”, “upup up”, “bye bye” (as the bubbles pop or float away).
  • Use my favourite words “Ready, set, GO!” to build up the anticipation and excitement (see “Ready, Set, TALK!“).
  • Bubble blowing is a perfect opportunity for modelling different types of words to your little one. Some bubble-related action words include “blow, pop, dip, jump, try again”. You can also demonstrate concepts such as “big, little, up, down, wet (when they pop –  or spill!), dry (when you have to get some paper towel to clean it up)”.

The great thing about blowing bubbles is that children of just about any age will get something out of it. Add an extra element of fun for slightly older children by suggesting they pop the bubbles with their ear, nose, forehead, elbow, foot…. (fun way to practise body part naming and understanding too).

Having trouble finding a bubble mix that doesn’t just pop in your face or melt off the wand straight away? Why not make your own? It’s super easy and getting your child to help with the process creates a whole new set of language learning opportunities and fun!

Here’s a recipe for perfect bubbles:

  • 1 cup of water (240ml)
  • 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid (30ml) – the “Fairy” brand seems to work well but any will do the trick
  • 1 tablespoon of glycerine (15ml) – glycerine is the secret additive that gives a bubble its extra strength, so they don’t pop as soon as you blow them. Glycerine can be purchased at any pharmacy; alternatively you can use light corn syrup.

You might be surprised by what you probably have lying around the house that make ideal bubble wands. Funnels, fly swatters, pipe cleaners (to make different shaped and coloured bubble wands), the rings of a 6 pack, coat hanger, cookie cutters….. be creative!

Erin

Erin Wilkins is the founder of SmallTalk Speech & Language Therapy. Erin is a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist and a member of Speech Pathology Australia. Since gaining her Master of Speech and Language Pathology Erin has gained extensive experience working with children in a variety of settings within Sydney, rural NSW, and in the UK. She is passionate about empowering parents with the skills to support their child in becoming successful communicators.

 

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